Learn about wine

If you can imagine the island of Ireland covered in vineyards, this is roughly the same footprint as the world’s vineyard area.  Okay, so tag on an extra County Cork for good measure and you will come close to the real figure of 7.5 million hectares of vines in the world, which bear grapes.   Although a sizeable amount of these are destined for fruit bowls, approximately 270 million hectolitres of wine were produced in 2014. In laymans’ terms, that’s a staggering 36 billion bottles!

WSET world productionWine-producing vines thrive at 30-50˚ north and south of the equator, where warmth and sunlight ripen the grapes at optimal levels.  At the start of this millennium, 70% of the world’s vineyards were in Europe, the so-called ‘Old World.’  Yet the wine world has changed in recent years.  Europe now has 56% of the total.  Why? Firstly, the EU implemented agricultural reforms aimed at reducing output, by targeting 5% of vineyards to be uprooted.  This is in tandem with a concerted effort to improving quality.  Secondly, the rise of New World production, notably China, has made a massive impact.

If you were to guess which country has the most vineyards planted, chances are that Spain would be well-down the list.  Yet Spain is the largest-planted by far, with 1.038m ha.  Second is China (at 799,000ha), with France coming in at just marginally less.   But that doesn’t mean that these countries are the largest wine producers!  Volume depends on several inter-related factors.  In actual fact, Spain is well-down the list at #3 in world production.

The annual weather influences amounts produced.  2013 produced 39 million hectolitres more wine than in 2012 – equivalent to more than the entire annual production of Spain!  This impacts pricing, and more noticeably, on promotional offers in-store.  By contrast, the 2015 harvest was mixed in Europe and around the world, with Italy coming in ahead of France in volume.  (But of course, the quality was excellent in France!).   Chile saw an increase, while neighbouring Argentina did not, according to a report in Decanter.

The most popular varieties (or varietals) have shifted quite a bit too.  In reds, Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet and Merlot) are still at the top, but Syrah (also known as Shiraz) and Tempranillo have soared in popularity.  Syrah has grown by 430% since 1990.  If you can correctly guess the world’s most widely planted white variety you would go straight to the top of the wine class – it’s a little-known variety called Airen.  Chardonnay is next, followed at some distance by Sauvignon Blanc.  Again, Pinot Grigio is hurdling away, but at the back of the pack.

Thanks to the Wine & Spirit Education Trust for the above information.

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